Israeli human rights group B'Tselem has written to United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres urging intervention to stop Israeli forces' use of lethal force against Palestinian protesters in the occupied Gaza Strip.
The letter from B'Tselem director Hagai El-Ad begins by naming what it calls "the 35 unarmed Palestinian protesters killed by Israel inside the blockaded Gaza Strip since the weekly demonstrations began on March 30".
According to El-Ad, "many of them died immediately, or shortly after, they were hit. Others succumbed to their wounds days later."
"Like so many other Palestinians in Gaza," he continued, "it is highly likely that they never had a chance to leave the small patch of land – roughly half the size of New York City – which is the Gaza Strip."
They lived their lives without any political rights, devoid of any hope for a reasonable future, totally subject to the decisions and policies of the Israeli government.
The letter to Guterres describes the "horrific casualty figures" as "the predictable outcome of the manifestly illegal rules of engagement implemented during the demonstrations, of ordering soldiers to use lethal gunfire against unarmed demonstrators who pose no mortal danger."
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"These orders are unlawful under both international law and Israeli law. Responsibility for these fatal outcomes rests with the policy makers and – above all – with Israel's prime minister, defence minister and chief of staff," it continued.
B'Tselem's El-Ad stressed that "extensive past experience clearly demonstrates that the recently announced Israeli 'investigation' of some of these fatalities is nothing more than a whitewash mechanism", and "part of a façade designed to give the impression that Israel is abiding by its legal obligation to investigate."
The letter concluded by writing that "preventing further loss of life is a responsibility that must be shouldered without delay. Israel must immediately change its illegal rules of engagement that permit using live ammunition against unarmed demonstrators. The United Nations must do all in its power – and its responsibility – in order to protect Palestinian lives and uphold international norms."